Standing Upright

I have been going through some things left at my parents’ home and among them were two letters to my folks from my buddy Steve. Post marked with the military stamp, June, 1969, Vietnam. Apparently my Mother had sent him a calendar in a prior correspondence because he stated to her bleakly he had no use for a calendar. He was in the jungle, terrified. He remarked he had no idea what they were doing there and what was going on, otherwise it was polite chit chat. He was halfway through his stint then.

Steve was a young mentor of sorts for my younger brother and I when he worked for my parents. He taught my brother how to drive the ’51 Ford when they went on trash runs around my family’s resort. His smile never left his face. I never saw him mad, sad or remorseful, although I am sure he was all those things when he died in heavy combat a few months later.

His death was something I have yet to come to terms with and it brings me to tears often. The one thing positive it did for me was bring into focus how things are not always what they seem to be. I learned how to recognize the lies and have always stood up for what is right. I never marched, protested or wrote my congressmen back in 1969, I was only 13, but Steve’s death is seared into my brain like it was yesterday and has eaten at me for years. I came to understand the outrage over Vietnam, especially since 70% of the reason for flooding the rice paddies there with US soldiers blood was over shear ego on the part of President Johnson. He wanted to win.

Today, we find ourselves in a historically comparable situation, the difference being how we handle the lies. For well over ten years now there has been a campaign to use email forwards and social media to create strong differences of opinion among Americans. In division lies victory for the ones who can’t otherwise win. Rather than the public truth stretching of yesteryear we have blatant lies that find their way onto our screens. Those of us who lived through a part of Vietnam are for the most part cautious, but the steady drone of unfiltered twists of truth are bending even more focused minds. We are being pitted against each other and with intention; listen to the words next time you tune in.

I asked two friends of mine, one 84 years young and another 94, one a Democrat and the other a Republican WWII vet and former engineer at Los Alamos, what they made of this situation we are in. The Democrat said she is concerned certainly, but 1968 was far scarier she felt. My older Republican friend looked me in the eye and said, “We have had some pretty sorry Presidents, but this one is the worst and dangerous.” Indeed.

In 1968 I was too young to grasp all of it, but my eyes are wide open on this go around because of the attacks on all branches of our government and the Constitution on separation of powers to name just one. Our government was set up to be a “living” institution and therein lies the vulnerability of its’ existence. Many situations we find ourselves in are not legally covered or bound to the Constitution, it was considered that all branches install reasonable human beings and have a degree of integrity. Ethics, appointments, communications and blatant lying are not bound tightly to the Constitution. What is however is the oath to defend the Constitution and in the case of legislators they swear to defend the US against all enemies. Really, the oath of a President binds them to not much, they are on the honor system because no one ever imagined that the office would be bastardized.

Coming from a well-rounded upbringing of hardworking, honest people I would betray not only Steve, but my family and my country if I didn’t stand up for what is right. My Republican side is worried about the seeming illegality surrounding this President and the cover provided for him by members of that party.. Is he buying them or are they that afraid of him? Most former congressmen think they are fearful. Too, the nation’s we call friends are being discarded like so many used napkins; where will they be down the road when we need them? I am concerned that the wanton disregard for the people of this country and our relations in the world will get us all killed. I fear no checks on our behavior is going to denigrate our nation that has stood for what is right around the world for a century and a half. We are after all American’s and no one is going to ask what we think about our situation, they will lump us all together.

There are Steve’s out there right now around the world. They are not laying in six inches of water with rats crawling on them…yet, but they are the ones first to deal with the fallout of failed diplomacy or lack of any diplomacy try and they may well be the first to die. The Presidents guilt or innocence when it comes to Russia is yet to be determined, but there is no doubt he is shaking the trees for money as he buys, sells and trades at will around the world caring not at all about how it looks, the ethics of it nor the consequences of his actions. All he wants is to win for himself. Putin is not playing games…he wants to be the defacto ruler of the world and he will kill to get what he wants. In fact, he has already killed someone who contributed to the Dossier presented out of concern by Michael Steele to our country. He has tricked our President into doing his bidding, while we all watch the show.

Americans had better understand one thing; we are a party to a dangerous game around the world where dictators are suddenly friends with our President, and our allies are not. The United States have always been leaders around the globe and our allies have come to our side many, many times. We have to turn off the tube and read, and we need to stop allowing the ones so inclined to divide us. This is not a game to be played on Twitter or Facebook, this is our country. The people standing up are not all “liberals”, nor are they wrong to do so. What has kept this country going since 1968 is a basic decency in all of us, not guns and curse words, and we have never moved forward with division.

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